Life For Rent

Chapter 1 : Awareness

Author's Notes :

- I have no idea why I thought I could write an NCIS: LA fic. There's been one official episode and two backdoor episodes. Either way, I was bitten with the bug. Chris O'Donnell's character is just too damn intriguing not to try.
- NCIS: LA belongs to CBS Paramount Television Network. I mean no copyright infringement and am only borrowing the characters for entertainment purposes.
- Will probably be SLASH (not Callen/Sam). That means guy/guy action.
- This probably will not be as action oriented as NCIS as, admittedly, action is not my strong suit.
- Title is from the Dido song Life for Rent.

Callen blinked as the sun streamed in through the newly polished windows of the new NCIS Los Angeles headquarters. He sat up slowly and a blanket fell down his chest. He studied the simple print of the blanket and wondered who had placed it on him. He desperately tried not to wonder if this is how kids felt when their parents tucked them in. He ran a hand over his face, wiping away any remaining sleep. He stretched his arms up over his head and the blanket pooled in his lap. Callen shook his head and stood up, gently replacing the blanket on the back of his borrowed 'bed'.

It was early, there were only a few people milling around the office and the smell of coffee hung in the air. Callen grabbed his new suit and headed for the locker room. He carefully hung the clothes on a towel rack making sure not to damage them. He'd never really had his own clothes growing up. He'd moved from house to house so often that almost nothing stayed with him so he and other foster kids had often shared clothes that the foster parents kept there.

Callen peeled off his long sleeve shirt, dropping it on to a nearby bench. He shucked off his shoes and toed off his socks. Rule number four: always sleep with your shoes on if you wanted shoes to wear tomorrow. His hands deftly unbuckled his belt and undid the fly on his relaxed jeans. They fell down and bunched at his feet. Callen stepped out of them and folded them carefully, placing them next to his shirt.

He reached into the shower and turned the water on, waiting a few seconds for the hot water to work. He stuck a hand under the steady stream to gauge the temperature. As soon as he was satisfied Callen stepped under the water, closing the curtain tight, letting it wash away yesterday-the fighting, the killing, the death. A couple cuts on his face and arms stung as the water cleaned them out but he barely felt them. Callen reached for the shampoo in the stall, left behind by someone else and poured a small amount into his hand. Rule number seven: never use as much as you need, you might never get any again; don't get used to it. He lathered it into his hair and closed his eyes tightly as he washed it out. Next he reached for the bar of soap, washing it off in the shower before running it over his body quickly.

Four minutes after he entered the shower, Callen stepped out. He reached for a towel in the small pile by the stalls and used it to dry off. When he finished he slung the damp towel into the corner bin and cheered a little on the inside when it fell cleanly into the basket. Callen rooted around in his locker for his bags, eventually coming out with clean underwear. He slipped his boxers on followed closely by his jeans. Shoes and socks came next and then his shirt. When he finished he glanced into the mirror.

Callen reached a hand up and rubbed at the stubble on his face, after a moment of hesitation he went back to his bags and fished out a razor. Three minutes later he was clean shaven, freshly showered and hungry. He left the locker room in search of the coffee he smelt earlier. He also took the time to wander around the new offices, his fingers gently gliding over different surfaces: desks, chairs, book cases, computer and more. He eventually found a small break room where someone had brought in bagels. There were an assortment in a pink box with white paper underneath them. Callen looked around and then reached in for a plain bagel, biting into it with his teeth as he reached for an apple. Rule number two: ask permission to eat any and all food if you didn't buy it. He snagged a napkin and maneuvered his bagel and apple into the same hand so he could grab an empty mug and fill it with coffee. Because there were so few people here the coffee was still hot and fresh and steam coated Callen's face as he took a sip. He sighed in satisfaction even and carried his pilfered goods out of the break room and back to the main lobby. Callen took a seat at the table near his impromptu bed and set the apple and coffee down, keeping the bagel securely in his hand. He pulled out the expense forms that Hetty had handed him the night before. He'd finished most of them yesterday but the few most recent were still undone.

By 0800 the expense reports were finished and on Hetty's desk, his coffee mug was washed and put away, the apple core had been chucked into a nearby waste bin and Callen wasn't waiting for Sam to arrive.

Special Agent Sam Hanna was Callen's self appointed best friend, his partner on the job. Callen thought the best thing about Sam was that he didn't pry, he just let Callen be as he was. He didn't overanalyze everything Callen did as something left over from the foster system. Sam was Sam…he was good to have at your back and always offered Callen his couch, even if he never took him up on it.

"Hey, G," Callen looked up and Sam hovered over him, coffee in hand.

"Sam," Callen greeted. "How's your morning going?"

Sam took that as an invitation to sit down. "I hate LA traffic, man. One person starts honking and suddenly everyone thinks they should join in."

Callen laughed. "That's LA for you."

"That's a bunch of impatient bastards for me," Sam corrected, sipping his coffee. "We got a case?"

"Not yet. I'm not even sure who else is here."

"I saw Nate walking in," Sam offered. "Kensi should be here any minute, the new guy is probably here somewhere already and your guess is as good as mine for when Eric decides to show his ugly mug."

"So… how was your night?" Callen asked.

"Long. There was a Hitchcock marathon on TV... I remember The Birds being a lot scarier."

"That's because you probably last saw it when you were five."

"Huh. That's true," Sam agreed. "But that was my night, G. What about you?"

"Nothing as exciting as massive birds attacks."

It wasn't that Callen was lonely. He'd accepted early on that it was just him whatever god was out there. After the first few times of being shuffled through the system you stop telling the other kids that you'll call them and after the first ten or so times you stop asking for their names. Either you or they won't be around long enough to care.

So it had just been him for as long as he could remember. Now Sam was on the periphery as were Nate, Kensi, Hetty, Eric and Gibbs. Gibbs was the only man whose couch Callen had actually borrowed. He was a mentor, a friend and someone who had decided that Callen's life was worth saving and then did so. In more ways than one.

"Hey, G, trying to solve the problems of the world?" A voice broke through his musings.

Sam was looking at him with a grin on his face, coffee cup gone. "Well you know those starving kids in Africa need someone to help them."

Sam laughed. "And you're gonna do that?" He looked up as Eric, standing above them on the balcony, motioned them into the upper rooms.

"For forty dollars a month I can feed a whole village." Callen grinned as he stood.

Sam stood up next to him. "Or so they tell you, G."

"What you think they would lie to me?" Callen asked as they started walking towards the command center.

"I think they want your money."

"Who wants his money?" Kensi asked, coming up behind them.

"Starving kids in Africa." Sam answered.

"Oh. Yeah, I'm with Sam. They want your money, not your food."

Callen sighed. "How did I get stuck with the two of you pessimists?"

Kensi slung an arm around his shoulder. "You're just lucky I guess."

"Oh, yeah." Callen said with a roll of his eyes as they reached the top of the stairs. "So, what have we got?"

"Missing petty officer…"